Jan 6, 2006

We can only hope he's wrong

Charles Krauthammer says Sharon's stroke may be the biggest disaster in Israel's history. Sharon introduced a third option, breaking the left/right dichotomy of appeasement and intransigence towards terrorism that characterized Israeli politics in recent years.
The problem is that the vehicle for this Sharonist centrism, his new Kadima Party, is only a few weeks old, has no institutional structure and is hugely dependent on the charisma of and public trust in Sharon.

To be sure, Kadima is not a one-man party. It immediately drew large numbers of defectors from the old left and right parties (Labor and Likud), including cabinet members and members of parliament. It will not collapse overnight. But Sharon's passing from the scene will weaken it in the coming March elections and will jeopardize its future. Sharon needed time, perhaps just a year or two, to rule the country as Kadima leader, lay down its institutional roots and groom a new generation of party leaders to take over after him.

This will not happen. There is no one in the country, let alone in his party, with his prestige and standing. Ehud Olmert, his deputy and now acting prime minister, is far less likely to score the kind of electoral victory that would allow a stable governing majority.

Of course, this is what all Israel watchers thought and felt upon hearing the news of Sharon's stroke. But it doesn't have to be so. Meryl Yourish says this is Olmert's Harry Truman moment. Olmert doesn't have Sharon's stature, but he now has an opportunity to show the electorate that he's committed to the Sharon's third way and that he's capable of carrying it out.

He has until March.

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